Firsthand: Insecure Security

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Jonathan Sawyer: Before the mayor’s list came out [naming Canarsie High as one of the city’s 10 most dangerous schools] I never really felt threatened at all. The students here are more verbal than physical. The new policy started [on January 5] when we came back from Christmas break. It was completely unannounced–a shock! My cousin goes to another school in Brooklyn. Now he says he hears that at Canarsie we “kill for fun.” It’s just ridiculous, a slap in the face!

Zinelle Vialva: I feel like I’m going to the airport every morning. I can’t wear my belt when I go inside the building. I have to keep it in a bag, like at a prison. I see people with guns and bulletproof vests. I feel insecure, like if something happened, would someone use a gun on me?

Jonathan: I have relatives who have been to prison, so it’s not that we hate cops, but cops are kind of not at the top of our list of people we’re very fond of. Having them here is going to add extra pressure and resentment that’s going to lead to more conflict.

Zinelle: My mother used to like Canarsie. She thinks it’s a bad school now that they have cop cars everywhere.

Jonathan: It’s a good school. There are a lot of teachers who care about the students. But it’s kind of crowded, and when you have a lot of people and a small space, you’re going to step on somebody’s toes. The lunchroom is crowded and fights happen mostly during lunch periods, not in class.

Zinelle: But now, with the cops, they say, “We’re always watching. You start anything, we will take you out fast and swiftly.”

Jonathan: It sounds like the Secret Service! Since the policy changed, students are scared of the guns, but they’re acting out. I’ve seen messes in the lunchroom that I didn’t see before. Like I saw a deck of cards completely ripped up and scattered on the lunch table. And soda cans ripped up.

Zinelle: Freshmen started ripping up textbooks. They’re angry. I’m imagining that kids will lose their minds one day. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t want to know.